Monday, September 10, 2018

AT&T's Path to 5G

AT&T's path to 5G is driven by the growth of data on the network, which currently exceeds 220 petabytes of data per day, and new applications said company CTO Andre Fuetsch, speaking at the AT&T's Spark event in San Francisco. The data tsunami is accelerating and AT&T's is showcasing applications such as e-gaming, augmented reality, virtual reality, IoT sensors, and smart cities.

Fuetsch announced an expansion of its 5G rollout to additional cities, promising the first commercial 5G mobile offering in a dozen U.S. cities by the end of this year, and 19 total U.S. cities by the end of this year. The five additional cities for 2018 are Houston, Jacksonville, Louisville, New Orleans, and San Antonio -adding to previously announced deployments underway in Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, and Waco. The 2019 expansion will add Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose.

AT&T's 5G suppliers include Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung. The early 5G cities are deploying 3GPP Release 15 compliant equipment.

Fuetsch said the company is making progress on several fronts, including a test this past weekend that carried the first wireless 5G data transfer over millimeter wave using standards-based, production equipment with a mobile form factor device. This test was conducted in Waco, Texas. Qualcomm supplied a smartphone test device based on it Snapdragon X50 5G modem and RF subsystem. Ericsson provided the 5G-NR capable radios which were connected to AT&T's virtual 3X standards compliant core.

AT&T plans to use millimeter wave spectrum for 5G in dense, urban environments. In suburban and rural areas, AT&T will deploy 5G using its mid and low-band spectrum holdings.

AT&T has also begun testing LTE and 5G using Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum. AT&T has selected Samsung to provide CBRS compliant radios and base station equipment. CommScope was selected as the Spectrum Access System (SAS) provider. Lab testing is expected early in 2019 with field trials later in the year.

Fuetsch also announced progress on Project AirGig, an effort first announced two years ago that aims to use the electrical power grid for delivering broadband service. Fuetsch said AT&T has discussions underway to commercialize the technology. A trial with Georgia Power uses mmWave and LTE to deliver fixed wireless access to rural residents at rates up to hundreds of megabits per second. Enabling technologies include low-cost plastic antennas, a radio distributed antenna system (RDAS), mmWave surface wave launchers and inductive power devices.

AT&T's involvement in the open source community was also highlighted at its Spark event, especially its contributions to the Akraino, ONAP, and OpenStack projects. The Akraino project seeks to create an open source software stack supporting high-availability cloud services optimized for edge computing systems and applications. A demo at the event showed a tablet application delivering visibly better responsiveness when connected to an edge data center rack compared to a distant cloud server.